Londependence? Meet the candidates trying to draw more autonomy to the capital

INDEPENDENCE has been a hot topic in British politics in recent years.

As the Scottish National Party (SNP) looks set to win another majority north of the border next week, support for Welsh independence has hit a record high of 39 percent.

In addition, more than half of those in Northern Ireland favour a border poll on uniting with the Republic, a January poll suggested.

The Northern Independence Party – who seek to secede Northumbria from the UK – are backing Thelma Walker in the Hartlepool by-election next week.

Though Labour MP David Lammy floated the idea in 2017, would anyone count on the capital of England becoming autonomous?

That appears to be the goal for the Londependence Party, who will stand four candidates for the Greater London Assembly next Thursday under the banner of further devolution for London – with an aim of making them equal to the Scottish and Welsh administrations.

Lead candidate Bella Roberts told Redaction Politics: “If elected, I will join the Devolution Working Group to continue pushing for the case of further devolution for London.

“The idea is not new, with the report of the London Finance Commission, originally initiated by Boris and re-convened by Sadiq Khan, was released in 2017 and sets out the case for reform.

“We believe London should have at least the same powers and responsibilities as the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations.”

The four Londependence candidates

The 2016 London Assembly elections mirrored the Mayoral poll – Labour dominating, the Tories in second place and a handful of seats for UKIP, the Green Party and the Lib Dems. This time around, a multitude of parties are standing in the London-wide race – which includes Richard Tice’s Reform Party and Brian Rose’s London Real candidates.

A lack of detailed polling at the GLA level makes it a fool’s errand to predict if any of the ‘other’ candidates will break into the Assembly. But like so many fringe parties before them, Londependence could well ‘succeed’ simply by getting their message out there.

Roberts conceded: “Given that the Londependence Party was only formed in 2019 and this is the first time that any of us have run in an election, a good result for us on election day would simply be to have raised awareness for our cause.

“Of course, it would be great to get at least one candidate elected this year but if we pick up more members and further support along the way too, we can come back stronger in 2024.”

Party Secretary Daniel Jacobs, who is also on the list, said: “The London Assembly has no real powers other than to hold the mayor to account. But where the mayor does not stand up sufficiently for London, we would be on his case.

“As members of the Assembly we would constantly be pressing him to demand more devolution, and to resist attempts by England’s government to take control of TfL or London’s housing plans.”

They may have got a head start already. A poll in 2016 showed over a tenth of Londoners favoured full-on independence for the capital city, with a further quarter supporting Scottish-style devolution.

“It is difficult to know how those figures will have changed since then. Certainly public opinion has shifted on related matters,” Jacobs added.

“Bear in mind that we as a party are a natural home for anybody who wants more autonomy for London, whether they want full independence or just greater devolution.”

Still, with Sadiq Khan absolutely dominating the polls – partly due to a lack of effective opposition from gaffe-prone Tory Shaun Bailey – the Labour party are likely to pick up votes down the ballot when Londoners vote next Thursday.

The Londepence Party doesn’t go hammer and tongs attacking the incumbent Mayor, however – instead, it tries to offer Londoners a more dynamic alternative.

Jacobs said: “Sadiq Khan is essentially a technocrat. He seems to us a moderate, pragmatic politician whose main aim is to keep London ticking over smoothly, but who lacks any real vision for the city.

“That has its pros and its cons. In particular, we feel it has made him too ready to roll over and accept government moves to muscle in on his powers.

“We feel therefore that when it comes to standing up for London, Sadiq has been too pragmatic and not sufficiently assertive. We believe that having a couple of Londependence representatives on the Assembly, pushing for further autonomy, would put a bit more lead in his pencil.”

For those disillusioned by Keir Starmer’s Labour and seeking an alternative, Londependence could also provide a fringe choice as a protest vote.

“A couple more Labour, Green or LibDem seats on the Assembly won’t bother the Tories very much, but a strong vote for us will send them a message which they won’t be able to ignore,” Jacobs added.

It’s a city of nine million that produces almost a quarter of the country’s GDP. To many patriotic Londoners, the capital can certainly hold its own if it ever were to secede from the union. For now, Londependence provides a platform for those hoping to bring back more power to citizens of the metropolis.

Featured Images: Londependence Party

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